Frontline Nurses: The USF Program and Why To Do It
For most of 2020 we watched frontline healthcare workers in the United States and throughout the world contend with a fierce attack from COVID-19. They have served our country despite great personal risk, exhaustion, and extreme emotional distress.
Now, there’s a new USF (University of South Florida) program for nurses, “Frontline Nursing During COVID-19: A New Paradigm,” is coming online. It includes four webinars and focuses on helping nurses, who dedicate their careers to caring for others, to take care of themselves in the midst of and beyond the crisis.
The program is free for any nurse anywhere in the world and especially in the United States. It was developed by the USF College of Nursing. It will give nurses continuing education credits, and it will do so at zero cost to the nurses who sign up.
Here’s the program link and the details: https://health.usf.edu/nursing/frontline-nursing
Please share the link and spread the word about this program. We want to protect our nurses. We want them alive and healthy. The ancient words apply: “If you save a single life, it is as if you have saved the entire world.” Join me, and let’s try to save nurses’ lives and patients’ lives, too.
For those who want to see the reasons for this program and why we need it now, here’s a curated compilation about nurses, the dangers to them, the need for them, and what they have confronted during the months of this ongoing COVID crisis.
This executive briefing from the Global Interdependence Center offers “context and perspective regarding the critical role that nurses play in the response to COVID-19 as well as changes to the nursing curriculum as a result of the pandemic”: “The Role of Nurses,” https://www.interdependence.org/events/browse/the-role-of-nurses/.
Perhaps the best place to start is to size up what US nurses and doctors are up against. The Federation of American Scientists ranks US states as if they were nations, reporting daily COVID-19 new cases per million people.
More than 40% of US hospitals had reached 85% of their ICU capacity or higher as of the week ending December 17 (“See Where U.S. Intensive Care Units Are Filling Up,” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/23/us/covid-rising-icu-capacity.html).
It’s ultimately not the number of beds in ICUs and makeshift spaces that turn out to be crucial. As journalist Katherine Harmon Courage explains,
“Adding extra critical-care beds in other departments or buildings takes precious time, resources, and space. But adding trained staff is much more difficult, especially deep into a pandemic.
“When trained staff are in short supply, it’s even harder for hospitals to best meet the needs of critical-care patients. These patients include people very sick with Covid-19, but also many who need to be in the ICU for other reasons, such as those who have had a heart attack or stroke, are recovering from major surgery, or are sick with the flu, among others.”
“Hospital ICUs are filling up. It’s even worse than it sounds,” https://www.vox.com/22196119/icu-capacity-hospital-staffing-coronavirus-covid-19
As some Americans let down their guard (or continue irresponsible and risky behaviors they have indulged in all along) and anticipate the vaccine, they get sick; and a new strain of the virus may potentially sicken more of them more quickly. Who pays for this? First, those who become infected then the nurses and doctors who help try to keep them alive when they can’t breathe.
Nurses Hit Hard
As many Americans traveled for the holidays despite warnings and pleas to stay home and not to gather, nurses braced for the impact, especially in places where ICUs are already at capacity (“Nurses fear what’s to come: ‘Walk down our unit for a day,’” https://apnews.com/article/us-news-pandemics-los-angeles-coronavirus-pandemic-california-4a851ff03e1f9e20ecece5767577ceb0.
Strained to the breaking point, they strive to communicate what’s happening in ICUs across the nation. Seeing patient after patient die, many nurses experience a combined sense of guilt, powerlessness, and betrayal that has been called “moral injury” (“Nurses Feeling the Strain of the COVID Pandemic Say the Resurgence Is ‘Paralyzing,’” https://people.com/health/nurses-feeling-the-strain-of-pandemic-say-the-virus-resurgence-paralyzing/).
They share what most Americans do not see for themselves – what it’s like in ICUs overrun with COVID-19 patients (“What seven ICU nurses want you to know about the battle against covid-19,”: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/icu-nurses-covid-19/).
Their mask-marked faces show the toll COVID has taken (“Exhausted COVID-19 nurse’s viral photo shows what it’s like ‘staring down a tsunami,’” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/12/05/covid-19-nurse-shares-story-how-started-how-its-going-photo/3823952001/).
They are worn down not just by the work and the goodbyes they help families to say to dying patients on Zoom calls and the finality of zipping closed the body bags, but also by walking out into a wider world where they see many people going about their lives as if the pandemic were not happening at all. (“‘No One Is Listening to Us’ More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19. Health-care workers can’t go on like this,”https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/11/third-surge-breaking-healthcare-workers/617091/)
They face the surreal: severely ill COVID patients who don’t believe the virus is real (“Their Patients Have COVID-19 and Still Think It’s a Hoax,” https://www.thecut.com/2020/11/nurses-are-dealing-with-patients-who-think-covid-is-a-hoax.html).
The parade of folly does not end, for some, even when COVID-19 hits home, as one ICU nurse observed on Twitter on December 26:
Vaccines arrive as a ray of hope. A friend who had to have surgery recently reported on the scene at a local hospital, “One by one, throughout the day, before and after my surgery, I would hear a nurse or other health professional say that she or he had just received the vaccine. I saw health workers share laughter and tears, squeeze each other’s shoulders, and before my eyes renew their passion and energy in their selfless and challenging work. Many spoke of it as a miracle.” It is a miracle indeed, to have an effective vaccine within a year, but it takes two doses and a bit of time before the vaccine is optimally effective, so the arrival of the vaccine means the beginning of a weeks-long countdown to physical safety for healthcare workers and relieves only one dimension of the strain doctors and nurses are under.
A Price Too High
In the months since COVID-19 reached the US, hundreds of nurses and other healthcare workers have laid down their lives in the nation’s battle against COVID-19. Meet some of them here: “Lost on the frontline,” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2020/aug/11/lost-on-the-frontline-covid-19-coronavirus-us-healthcare-workers-deaths-database.
Demand and Supply
Nurses serving on the front lines need PPE and other solutions, such as “wearable, hands-free, voice-controlled communication tools that can be worn under PPE (and used without removing PPE),” to lower their risk and increase their effectiveness. Fact is, US healthcare workers still face shortages of PPE, months into the pandemic. (“Helping nurses bounce back from the devastating effects of Covid-19,” https://medcitynews.com/2020/11/helping-nurses-bounce-back-from-the-devastating-effects-of-covid-19/)
Some nurses, burned out, are quitting because of dangerous conditions (“Amid a raging pandemic, the US faces a nursing shortage. Can we close the gap?” https://theconversation.com/amid-a-raging-pandemic-the-us-faces-a-nursing-shortage-can-we-close-the-gap-149030).
As matters stand, given that nurses are in great demand and short supply, it is medical students and nursing students who are stepping up to vaccinate Americans (“U.S. states enlist medical, nursing students to give out COVID-19 vaccine,” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-vaccine-nurses/u-s-states-enlist-medical-nursing-students-to-give-out-covid-19-vaccine-idUSKBN28Y124).
Looking Ahead: Nursing Shortages
Looking forward, changing immigration policies offers one way to help address staffing shortages during COVID-19. Hospitals can find more beds. Their capacity to provide care is often limited by staffing, not space. (“Biden urged to change immigration policy to send more health workers to Covid hot spots,” https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/03/biden-immigration-policy-health-workers-442411)
The American Nurses Association breaks anticipated nursing shortages down by state to identify which states will see shortages and which will see surpluses of nurses over the next decade. (“Nursing Shortage by State: Which U.S. States Need Nurses the Most and Which Ones Will Have Too Many?” https://nightingale.edu/blog/nursing-shortage-by-state/)
Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.
Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.